Disaster expert warns against generic safety plans
Disaster preparedness expert says Pacific businesses and communities cannot afford to rely on generic emergency plans when disaster strikes.
A disaster preparedness expert says Pacific businesses and communities cannot afford to rely on generic emergency plans when disaster strikes.
Graham Nel is part of a New Zealand-based team that provides workshops in the Pacific to businesses about how to best prepare for disaster.
Mr Nel, who specialises in earthquake safety, told Amelia Langford that hopefully business owners and staff will pass on what they learn to their families and communities.
GRAHAM NEL: What we look at doing is actually empower businesses to train their staff what to do in an emergency who can then go out and share that knowledge with people in the community so it's not really just focussed on the business itself, it's about getting that information out to the wider community. We are looking at things specifically like Tsunamis are absolutely deadly they can come without warning [but] people need to know what the warning signs are, what to do and where to go. I think tsunamis are pretty much the worst case scenario, we also look at earthquakes, what to do, and how to prepare. There are a few basic things people can do to minimise their risks and then obviously cyclones are a big issue and its about making sure people are prepared for cyclones in terms of storing water and having systems in place whereby they can interact as a community and with their local civil defence organisations.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Okay, I would imagine that most businesses would have some sort of general disaster plan but is that not enough?
GN: Yes, most businesses do have a general disaster plan which usually revolves around a fire evacuation plan. A good example there would be coastal resorts that in the case of emergency and earthquake people resort to their fire evacuation plan. Generally that means they are assembling outside the building but that assembly point is usually in a tsunami zone so we need to be very clear with the businesses about when a fire evacuation plan is not appropriate and have some specific plans in place to deal with specific emergencies. The resort community particularly have a duty of care to a large number of guests so it is really critical that the resorts have suitably trained people who can actually lead their guests to safety in an emergency.
AL: It seems amazing that some of these resorts would tell people to gather in an area that could be prone to a tsunami...
GN: Unfortunately, some of the resorts are well-resourced and well-oganised [but] some of the smaller resorts - I do not think a lot of thought has gone into the planning and this is where we form part of that solution by educating people about what exactly the risks are. I think a lot of people are under the sort of misapprehension that tusnamis could take a while to arrive. In Tonga, for example, after a major earthquake, you have got about 20 minutes and I don't think people realise the short time-frames they have got to get to higher ground. So, we look at what to do to survive the first few seconds, by securing heavy goods, what to do to survive the next few minutes, and that's about making informed decisions and evacuating quickly, and then we look at what people need to do to survive the subsequent hours and days in terms of having emergency kits, water and supplies stored away. From a business perspective, we then look at what does a business need to do to in the subsequent days, weeks, months and years to rebuild their business to get back up and running.
Graham Nel, who conducts workshops in the Pacific in collaboration with the New Zealand company Learn Fast.